Thursday, December 30, 2004

A personal music universe 2004

A few highlights to usher in New Year's Eve...

Emmanuel Pahud plays the Strauss and Franck violin sonatas on the flute with pianist Eric Le Sage; with Widor Suite for flute & piano (EMI). Top quality musicianship all round, knocks spots off many fiddlers. The first time I've really "got" the Strauss sonata.

Leonidas Kavakos plays Ravel & Enescu (ECM). Glorious fiddle playing, wonderfully imagined.

Philippe Graffin & the Johannesburg Philharmonic in the violin concertos by Coleridge-Taylor and Dvorak. This represents more than the sum of its parts, being the first classical CD recorded in South Africa since the fall of apartheid. But the parts are fabulous too. Serious beauty, gritty passion and great music heard too rarely. (Avie)

Faure songs - first CD in Hyperion's complete Faure song edition. Pianist Graham Johnson is joined by his stalwart singing colleagues like Felicity Lott and John Mark Ainsley, plus equally impressive others. This is just out and it's a wonderful selection of songs about water, from all periods of Faure's life and work.

Matthias Goerne singing Winterreise. Need one say more?


Top slot has to go to St Nazaire, especially the day in which Tom took the stage with Philippe, Nobuko et al! Not an experience quickly forgotten. And yes, it sounded great. No less, also at St Nazaire, Philippe with Nobuko, Pascal Devoyon and Gary Hoffmann in the Faure 2nd piano quartet - some of the most moving, insightful, sensitive and vividly coloured chamber music playing I've ever heard.

Philippe's Ravel Day at the Wigmore Hall. Weirdly enough, what strikes me most in retrospect is the appropriateness of the weather: it was the last snow of last winter, magical and straight out of Un Coeur en Hiver.

Next, the Barkauskas premiere in Vilnius (again, Philippe and Nobuko, with plentiful Lithuanian colleagues!). A privilege to be there. And I hope we'll hear more of Barkauskas's Duo Concertante and its astonishing background story. (See BBC Music Magazine, February 2005, for more info, or just click on June 2004 in the archives...)

In Verbier, Vadim Repin playing Shostakovich. Mesmerising.

From the LPO, the Edinburgh concerts with Vladimir Jurowski, which set the house on fire. (Once, literally - the Usher Hall alarm went off 10 minutes before kick-off!). And Glyndebourne's double bill of Rachmaninov and Puccini - also with Jurowski. This guy has, and is, something very special.

Speaking of opera, Juan Diego Florez in Don Pasquale at Covent Garden had to be heard to be believed.

Ballet: Mayerling, also at Covent Garden. Hair-raising, edge-of-seat drama & virtuosity.

Best piano recitals: Stephen Kovacevich at RFH; Steven Osborne's Messiaen 'Vingt Regards' at Wigmore Hall. Best piano concerto: Martha Argerich in Prokofiev 3 with LPO. Absolutely incredible.

No doubt there are plenty of others too that I've forgotten about and over which I will kick myself tomorrow morning. But perhaps the ones that spring rapidly to mind have made the deepest impression...